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Marketplace: What Makes it the Holy Grail of E-tail

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By Nataraju Vusirikala, Director, Data Science and Engineering, Walmart Global Tech India

The Silk Route was a historic trade route, which stretched from Asia to the Mediterranean, the moniker derived from silk trading – a fabric that originated in China. Along this route several groups of trading posts and markets facilitated the transport, storage, and exchange of goods. And that’s how the first-ever Global Marketplace took shape.

Online marketplaces provide a platform for sellers to set up their store and merchandise their products. These platforms provide the infrastructure (website, hosting, transactional APIs, etc.), attract customers, deliver a seamless shopping experience (browse, search, cart, wish list, discounts, and promotions, etc.) to customers and enable seamless customer transactions and manage fraud, provide IP protection. Finally, these platforms provide value-added services like advertising and shipping services, along with providing valuable insights to sellers to grow their business on the platform. In the future, we anticipate the marketplace platforms to blur the lines between shopping channels, and further improving customer shopping experience.

In an otherwise unsaturated e-commerce market, marketplaces have become the go-to solution. This change can be attributed to reasons like the win-win scenario marketplaces create for sellers, customers, and platform providers, the pre-existing customer base they bring and the ease of setup for third party vendors, among others.

Recent market statistics, including a PWC report that states that 88% of consumers are willing to pay for same-day or faster delivery highlight the need for constant innovation in online marketplace solutions. Some significant current and upcoming marketplace innovations are elaborated below.

Digital voice assistants are slated to rise to 8 billion active units by 2023. Marketplaces with voice search integration can help personalize the shopping experiences based on individual preferences by providing apt recommendations. It also helps reduce the screen interactions and time to check out with easy navigation. In addition, giving feedback also becomes easy for the users using voice technology instead of typing lengthy feedback or filling feedback forms.

Social media channels go beyond networking and have evolved into platforms for buying and selling. What this innovative trend does is shorten the customer journey. Recently, Instagram announced that it is going to create a marketplace for influencer brand deals. A noteworthy example is that of shoppable video ads, which we saw Ted Baker putting into practice. It makes buying almost instantaneous for the shoppers and leads to direct and immediate sales for the sellers.

With the online retail landscape becoming more competitive and saturated by the day, global marketplaces are looking for ways to capture customers’ attention. One of the ways to do so is to amplify delivery mechanisms through various means. One key breakthrough that will power faster deliveries is predicting demand at a specific geolocation and product combination. This tech will also assist sellers make better-informed decisions and meet/exceed customer expectations on marketplaces.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a massive role in making online marketplace solutions more streamlined for users. It automates the categorization of the goods, enhances image quality, helps translate the item descriptions and listings, and displays recommended products based on the customers’ search history. For instance, data from multiple sources about products, transactions, buying choices, weather plays a pivotal role and aids AI in creating individualized and precise experiences for all sellers, partners, and customers. Some more benefits of AI in the marketplace include AI-driven segmentation, auto-tagging, sentiment analysis, automated customer services among others.

Augmented Reality (AR) is another quintessential marketplace tech and is highly effective. The reason being – it offers additional conveniences to the customers both online and in-store. AR can bridge the gap with physical touch and feel experience which will help customers make quick product choices such as apparel, accessories, or furniture. Lenskart was one of the earliest adopters of AR and has continued to evolve therein. The 3D Try On tech, deployed on the app and website, does a brilliant job of capturing the face from multiple angles and, in the end, providing an idea of how the eyewear fits an individual. Convenience like this will soon make AR commonplace on various marketplaces.

In conclusion, the global marketplace landscape is going through a massive shift, with key players implementing innovative technologies and strategies to up their game. At the same time, it is also brimming with new entrants on the market. It will be interesting to see which trends will finally gain momentum and benefit both the sellers and the customers in the future – with technology at the forefront.

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